By JOHN McCALLUM
I was going to lead into this column with some kind of reference to Hillary Clintonâ€™s famous remark about how it takes a village, but that sounded a little too kumbaya-ish for a baseball story.
With that, hereâ€™s my lead, sort of.
If you havenâ€™t stopped by The BIC lately to view the great looking improvements to Cheneyâ€™s only full-sized ballpark, you should. And in case youâ€™re wondering what â€œThe BICâ€ is, itâ€™s the Cheney High School field â€“ The Ballpark In Cheney.
Yes, there are some nice looking Little League fields, a couple of softball diamonds, and the field at the middle school. But with the transformation in 2007 of Eastern Washington Universityâ€™s Chissus Field into a challenge course, The BIC is now the only full-sized â€“ 90 foot base paths, pitcherâ€™s mound 60 feet, 6 inches from home â€“ field in this city.
Frankly, thatâ€™s a sad state of affairs. That may change, but for now, thanks to some hard work from the good folks at the Cheney Baseball Association, the one field the city does have is pretty sharp.
Sharp enough to land a bid as one of two sites for last weekâ€™s American Legion Junior AA State Tournament. The CBA has been working on the field the past two summers, going into overdrive the last couple of weeks prior to the tournament, and the work has paid off.
â€œWeâ€™ve gotten tons of comments on it,â€ CBA president, Cheney AA American Legion and CHS Blackhawksâ€™ manager Randy Elam said.
Finishing up the field and getting ready for state required a lot of work. The bullpens were spruced up, getting a new brick border around the mounds.
The inside of the dugouts were painted, and screens were added to the foul poles, painted yellow, thanks, Elam said, to the welding/painting talents of parent/volunteer Mike Westerfield.
The batting cages, the batterâ€™s walkups to home as well as a semi-circular strip between the home plate dirt and grass needed new turf. Elam scoured around and found some 4-5-year-old sport turf from a distributor in Texas for the bargain basement price of $1 a square foot.
Normally, sport turf runs $3-$6 a square foot.
â€œItâ€™s really good stuff, itâ€™s really heavy,â€ Elam said. â€œBut we didnâ€™t have enough for around home plate, so we had to steal some from the batting cages. That broke my heart.â€
Installing the turf required players and parents to first pour concrete â€“ 150 bags of it. The concrete had to be leveled as it was poured, and Elam said CBA member Dave Lowe spent probably five hours on his hands and knees smoothing and evening the concrete during the process.
â€œWithout Dave Lowe, heâ€™s really quite the handyman, a lot of stuff wouldnâ€™t have gotten done,â€ Elam said. â€œI call him, â€˜MacGyver.â€™â€
After the upgrades, getting the field ready for the eight-team state pod required some extra work. Friday night before the first game, Lowe and CBA member and AA team assistant coach Ed Franklin brought their riding mowers and went over the whole field collecting grass clippings left behind after Cheney School District personnel mowed earlier in the day.
Elam said they got a lot of help from high school and legion baseball players, taking some pride in their home field. They also got help from kids who donâ€™t play, including some who happened to be walking by when Elam and crew were trying to collect the grass clippings. They asked if they could help, Elam said, and he put them to work.
â€œTheyâ€™re a bunch of grass-kickers,â€ Elam added.
(Column note: Yes, that was a long way to go to get that line in, but itâ€™s a great quote.)
CBA volunteers put in tons of hours during the tournament, manning the gate and concession stand, keeping official score, and preparing the field before each game. Itâ€™s something these folks have become skilled at through hosting other tournaments and tournament pods, such as the annual Wood Bat Classic.
This dedication to the sport, as much as a nice facility, played a big part in the CBA bringing a portion of the state tournament to Cheney â€“ and the revenue that came from the six teams who traveled from the west side of the state to play.
Hopefully, that will mean there will be plenty more future action to come â€“ at The BIC.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org